Andrew Jones has compiled a list of responses to a recent Washington Post article regarding short term missions. This is a conversation close to my heart as I have been on several different types of short term missions. My sense of God calling me into ministry even comes out of a one-week experience in New Orleans. I do believe that there is a place for apostolic partnerships and the mobilization of churches for the mission. However, some of the criticism about cost and the inefficient projects is true. In the last year I published an article regarding short-term missions at my old site. It seems fitting to reprint the article here.
The e’s of mission (first printed at Craig O’Brien Blogs, June 2007)
A couple of weeks ago I had a lively discussion with Nazim, one of the pastors at Cityview. In it I gave voice to 3 “e’s of mission” and have since added three more that I think could help us craft a long-term approach to short-term missions. Attention to these e’s of mission would help the church confront several issues: 1. How to engage the church in a holistic application of the Great Commission and the mission of God. 2. How to free the church to invite those people who share their values but not our Christ as of yet to participate and even collaborate in the mission. 3. How to extend the relationship between churches across continents or cities beyond a week to years. Here they are. I believe mission today could seek to create collaborative ventures for
Environmental improvements: regions of the world and small communities are facing devasting environmental realities. Improvements would seek to raise the quality of water, air, and soil through the initiation of best practices with the ethical application
Educational improvements: Educating both boys and girls raises their ability to process information and even synthesize information. Education must include agreed upon foundations of knowledge but also stimulate the diverse styles contained in people. The development of facilities is especially helpful in some regions.
Economic improvements: For the past four years I have been seeking to learn more about micro-loans and the establishment of family enterprises. This is an exciting area for marketplace Christians from church settings to share their knowledge.
Energizing family systems: (Ok I cheated a bit on this one.) Mission in regions devasted by AIDS, natural disaster, war, etc, must address the devastation of family systems. I have been challenged by Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian Ambassador to the UN, in his book, Race against Time; his account of villages ravaged by AIDS was most striking when he recorded the reality of lost learning that was present when the generation gap meant a generation was just not alive any more.
Evangelism of the Lost: God is seeking the lost and has commissioned His church to declare the Gospel of the Kingdom of His Son, Jesus Christ. The church is uniquely commissed by God with this “e of mission.” And furthermore, God is uniquely gifting and shaping His people for the declaration of the Gospel. Mission teams must seek the appropriate means for communicating the message of forgiveness of sin through faith in Christ.
Empowerment of the Church: As much as possible I believe that apostolic witness must seek to empower the local, indigenious church to thrive. Our brothers and sisters who are suffering through trials of many kinds, must answer the question, “What does God want us to do? and then offer this invitation: “Here is the challenge we would like you to collaborate with us on?” Even as a new church begins in a community because of the apostolic witness of those on came on mission, I believe there must be a shift in the way the “missionaries” approach the emerging believers that encourages their own responsiveness to God and the development of their ownership of His assignment to their local congregation.
If you are part of a church that is engaged in short-term missions, what have you all been learning through your experiences? What do you think about these “e’s of mission?”